James Siena

About Artist: James Siena (born October 28, 1957) is an American contemporary artist based in New York City. His art is typically created through a series of self-imposed constraints also sometimes referred to as visual algorithms —rules Siena decides on before sitting down to work. In most of his work he establishes a basic unit and action and repeats it indefinitely. Siena commented that, "at a certain point I wanted to make drawings and works that act as machines. The way they act as machines is you have to find your way into them and find your way out of them. As you undo the making of them they come to life. James Siena was born in Oceanside, California in 1957 but lived and grew up in Washington D.C. until the age of 12, when his family moved to California in 1969. He moved to New York in 1975 to attend Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He received his Bachelors of Fine Art (BFA) in 1979 from Cornell. Asked to name the teacher who most influenced him, Siena quickly cites Mary Croston, an after-school art instructor who taught him as a teenager. Croston treated her young students as “real” artists, says Siena, introducing them to such tools as charcoal and graphite and coaching them in figure drawing. “She just taught the basics; that was very influential,” he says of those classes in the “art hut” behind Croston’s house in Stanford, California. Siena also remembers being “very moved” by the late Peter Kahn, who taught the history of techniques at Cornell. According to Siena, “He was a marvelous Renaissance man” who taught his students such skills as determining whether paper is archival quality and making ink out of toast crumbs and saliva.

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